The Thralldom of Words

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The Thralldom of Words

How unreal
Insensate 
Would this life be
Without words
Sterile
Without the sounds to sing my feelings
The joy of Tongue
Touched by language
Threaded through thought
Expressed
In silken sound
Tempered by the vernacular
Enriched by our true poets

Sounds of the lover’s
Throbbing pleasure
Silken sounds
Of the singer of songs
Soulful
sensuous
That’s what it’s all about, Alfie. 

Living life
Loses meaning 
Is unreal 
Without 
The thrall of words
In trusted tomes
Found fables and
The lust for legend
Joy discovered
In mildewed texts
Throbbing with
Sound
Sense
And feeling

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To Be A Poet 

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To be a poet 

But never to show it 

Is more of a crime

Than engaging with rhyme;

 

So be not afraid 

For when you’re decayed, 

From out of your tomb

Brave poppies will bloom.

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Pleasure in a WORD

THROB

THROB

 

As I woke
a word arrived in my consciousness
unasked
unaided

… THROB …

short word
tripped from my dreams
tumbled through my lips
to spill its delight into the morning air

Dug
pleasurably
from my waking consciousness
as my tongue savoured its existence
rolled itself around both lips
and my mouth accommodated itself
to its cadence

Measuring Its measure
against my throat’s resonance
thrusting the sound
up and out
into the waiting
wondering
world
pleased to be out in the morning air
a thrill to emit
listening as it cuts
sensuously
with a flautist ‘s thrust 
through the sensuous surrounding air

The poet’s morning chorus
a sound to be repeated
joyously
with fervour
pleasurably
savouring its cadence

Repeated
it resounds in the room
lingering as it ends 
lingering as I make 
that final occlusion
voicing its
bilabial stop
strong
sensuous
evocative 
voluptuous in its warmth
flirtatious in its coquettishness

Onomatopoeic pleasure
so soulfully satisfying
in its sound-print

Its exultant cry of existence

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Weaving Words

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Weaving Words

 

(The Poet’s Calling)

 

I wander my world 
weaving words into verse
plaiting my thoughts 
into silken skeins of sense
rendering images
from my mind’s eye
to this digital paper
perverse perception
lending life to poetry
lust to hope 
and love to mon amour
the written word. 

Only in time
with wish fulfilment
perchance my dreams
will meet my expectations 
and produce that meisterwerk
whose impetus
drives me on

 

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‘First Fig’ – Edna St.Vincent Millay

[  # 80 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

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Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American poet and playwright who was born in Rockland, Maine, in 1892.  I have used a short poem of  hers before in this series – in November of 2017, q.v. . . .    ‘What Lips My Lips Have Kissed’ .

This poem is even shorter, but I find that it does have a  lot to say, about her own lifestyle and about the times and the milieu which she inhabited in her heyday in 1920s New York.   Millay titled the book in which this poem was published A Few Figs From Thistles, and this poem was the first one in the book, hence ‘First Fig’.

The poem is highly symbolic and the opening line plunges the reader into that arresting metaphor which she uses to describe her wild, bohemian, certainly unorthodox spirit.   The second line, however, recognises the ephemeral nature of such an existence with the bitter-sweet ‘It will not last the night’.  She is acknowledging that brightness is not all, a candle burning simultaneously from both ends will burn twice as quickly and such hedonistic times will not last.

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Figs from Thistles: First Fig

 

My candle burns at both ends;

   It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

   It gives a lovely light!

 

2-ended candle

 

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Am I a POET?

 

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CALLIOPE: the muse who presides over eloquence and epic poetry; 

Am I a POET?

I’m a poet!  Who are you?
Are you a Poet, too?
 
Do I write poetry?
I say I do;
But is it poetry I write?
What say you?

 Was it by sweated brow,
By haunted vision,
I overcame my indecision?

 Did Damascene insights,
Or inspiration’s muse,
Give birth
To my poetic views?

 This begs the question
Long undecided:
Am I a Poet,
Famed or derided?


 

I wrote a poem the other day,
or was it just words
in a different order,
pretending
to have their own reason for existence?

Such feelings are
The price I pay;
when I say
I am a poet
am I honest,
do I really know it?

Addressing myself
I’ve learned to ask,
and every time I pen a poem
I set myself this very task . . .


Can I really
hand on heart
claim to be
a tiny part
of all those great
illustrious sages
who’ve coloured
life’s dramatic pages
in epics, sonnets,
ballads and odes,
presenting prose
in verbal codes,
fantasising fecund dreams,
massaging thoughts and wild ideas,
composing their Byronic idylls,
word music of the spheres?

The net result,
always the same,
I know I’ll have
no claim to fame.

Such images,
they prove to me,
that shallow thoughts,
marshmallow words,
can never in a thousand years,
however many sweated tears,
make me one of their poetic peers.

 


 

Poets Corner

 

 

John Clare – ‘I AM’

[  # 74 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

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John Clare (1793 – 1864) was an English poet.   Born in Northamptonshire, he was the son of a farm labourer, who became known for his celebrations of the English countryside and for regularly expressing sorrows at its disruption.   His poetry underwent major re-evaluation in the late 20th century and he is now often seen as one of the important 19th-century poets.   His biographer, Jonathan Bate, states that Clare was “the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced.  No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.”  Many of his poems are filled with a joy he experienced in nature and the countryside.  Sadly, however, for the last 25 years of his life Clare suffered from mental illness and was incarcerated in a mental institution.   In this wistful soul-searching poem, described by some as “one of the greatest poems of sheer despair ever written”, Clare spills out his desolation and detachment from a life which he would dearly love to have lived . . . 

‘I AM’ . . .  by John Clare

 

I AM! yet what I am who cares, or knows? 
My friends forsake me, like a memory lost.
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,
Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.         5
And yet I am—I live—though I am toss’d.
 
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dream,
Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,
But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem         10
And all that’s dear. Even those I loved the best
Are strange—nay, they are stranger than the rest.
 
I long for scenes where man has never trod—
For scenes where woman never smiled or wept—
There to abide with my Creator, God,         15
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,
The grass below; above, the vaulted sky.

 

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U. A. Fanthorpe – ‘ATLAS’

 [  No.72 of my favourite short poems  ]

 

After all the recent talk of LOVE surrounding VALENTINE’s DAY, here is a very down-to-earth poem by what we could perhaps call a no-nonsense down-to earth poet,  U.A.Fanthorpe. 

Born in 1928, Ursula Askham (normally using just her initials, U.A.), Fanthorpe, died, aged 79, in 2009, near her home in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.  After studying at Oxford University, she went on to teach English at  Cheltenham Ladies’ College for sixteen years, before giving up teaching.  She was aged 50 before her first collection of poems was published, having noted, quite precisely, that “On 18 April 1974 I started writing poems”.  She was later made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded a CBE in 2001 for services to poetry.  In 2003 she received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Perhaps her best known poem is ‘Atlas’.  The poem presents a far-from-romantic view of LOVE.  Certainly a positive, worthwhile, and all the more powerful for that, view of the realities of a truly loving relationship . . . 

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‘Atlas’

‘ATLAS’ . . . by U. A. Fanthorpe

 

There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

 


UA Fanthorpe, from ‘Safe as Houses’ (Peterloo Poets, 1995)


 

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Wendy Cope: ‘The Uncertainty of the Poet’

[  No.68 of my favourite short poems  ]

The uncertainty which afflicts many poets concerning their right to call themselves such, is perhaps illustrated in this ‘Vimrod’ cartoon to be found on the lastlemon.com website, and further expressed in Wendy Cope’s delightful short poem, below . . .

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The indecision which afflicts so many of us, leaves us, as in the last line of Wendy Cope’s poem, still insecure, unsure of ourselves and our abilities, and certainly ‘uncertain’.  But the need to press on remains, regardless of our doubts, and that is what tells me we must have something of the poet in us.

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‘The Uncertainty of the Poet’  by  Wendy Cope

 

I am a poet.
I am very fond of bananas.

I am bananas.
I am very fond of a poet.

I am a poet of bananas.
I am very fond.

A fond poet of ‘I am, I am’ –
Very bananas.

Fond of ‘Am I bananas?
Am I?’ – a very poet.

Bananas of a poet!
Am I fond? Am I very?

Poet bananas! I am.
I am fond of a ‘very’.

I am of very fond bananas.
Am I a poet?

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Vimrod – as explained on Wikipedia:

Vimrod is a cartoon character created by Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar.  Vimrod is best known for its greetings cards, which sell worldwide in the millions, and books, which are published by Harper Collins and Andrews McMeel / Universal press Syndicate.

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Derek Walcott … ‘Love After Love’

(No.65 of my favourite short poems)

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‘Love After Love’ – Created with ‘Word Art’ … WHB – 2017 

Sir Derek Alton Walcott was born in the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia in 1930.  Although a widely respected painter, he is best known as both a poet and playwright.  He received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex from 2010 to 2013.   He won a MacArthur “genius” award, the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, and many other literary honours.  He died in St Lucia in 2017.

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Composed in free verse, without rhyme or any regular poetic metre, this lovely short poem celebrates the self as finally accepting who and what we are.  Life experience can bring sadness, but there is hope for redemption and an optimistic future.  We can and do change, and are ultimately able to show our true self.

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Love After Love – Poem by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

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Below are links to two, quite different, readings of this poem from YouTube . . .

‘Love After Love’ read by Tim Hidddlestone

‘Love After Love’ read by David Whyte

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